Carbon-rich peatlands may trap more greenhouse gases than first thought, driving up their potential value on the carbon market, according to a new study, reports Reuters.
Huge amounts of greenhouse gases are released when peatlands are logged or drained for agriculture, and even more when the dried bogs catch fire and release toxic haze into the air, reports Reuters.
The study, The Global Peatland CO2 Picture, conducted by Wetlands International in cooperation with Greifswald University, finds that decomposition of drained peat causes 1.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions, and with peat fires (in SE Asia and E-Europe) and peat mining (for horticulture and fuel) it brings the annual figure to around 2 billion tons. Worldwide peatland emissions have increased by more than 20 percent since 1990, say researchers.
The largest current emitters are Indonesia, European Union, Russia, China, U.S. and Finland. In fifteen countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, emissions due to peatland degradation are even higher than their reported emissions from fossil fuels, according to the study.
A team of 11 of the world’s best peat scientists have found that it might be more important to preserve peat than first thought, reports Reuters.
Accurate calculations on carbon lost through deforestation or locked away by saving and replanting forests and peatlands is critical to an emerging U.N. forest carbon offset scheme called reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), reports Reuters.
Researchers says preventing and reducing peatland emissions is currently not addressed by the global climate treaty, which focuses primarily on fossil fuel emissions, and a proposed policy to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD) may overlook emissions from organic soils in peat swamp forests.
John Raison, chair of the 11-member Peat and Greenhouse Gases Group, a joint project between the Indonesian and Australian governments, told Reuters there was still great uncertainty about how much carbon was stored in the peatlands, which would influence how much peat carbon credits should be worth.
Indonesia is the world’s largest emitter at 500 million tons of CO2, followed by the EU with 174 million tons and Russia with 160 million tons, according to the study. The study also reveals in Sub-Sahara Africa (South Africa excluded) peat emissions equal 25 percent of all fossil fuel emissions in this region, while in Southeast Asia peat emissions equal to 70 percent of all fossil fuel emissions in this region.
Another recent study published in the journal Nature Geoscience found that draining peatland in Southeast Asia alone produced a quarter of the greenhouse gases created by deforestation worldwide, reports Reuters. This study also found global deforestation created 12 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions, according to the news agency.